TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran could target installations in Turkey that are part of a planned NATO missile shield in any future conflict, a senior military official said on Saturday, upping the rhetoric against its neighbor with whom relations have soured in recent months.
“We are ready to attack NATO’s missile shield in Turkey if we face a threat and then we will follow other aims,” the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division, as saying.
Tehran has made clear its displeasure at Turkey’s agreement in September to deploy a NATO missile early warning system which it sees as a U.S. ploy to protect Israel from any counter-attack should the Jewish state target Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Once warm relations between Iran and Turkey have been strained this year due to the missile shield and Ankara’s outspoken criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on popular unrest.
Turkey and Iran, the Middle East’s two major non-Arab Muslim states, are vying for influence in the post-Arab Spring region and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s military adviser accused Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of setting its foreign policy to please Washington.
Major-General Yahya Rahim-Safavi said earlier this week that any attack from Israel would trigger a response from Tehran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
“The Zionists know well that if they start a war they will be targeted strongly from South Lebanon, from Hamas and also from Iran,” he told state broadcaster IRIB.